Whether you are preparing for a fun doubles match at the local club, or for the Finals at the Australian Open, the mentality is the same; good nutrition means good body results. Have you really thought about what that means, though? What I want to break down is the essential nutritional needs of tennis players, and how everyone's needs are different, as well.
Let's start with the basics. We all need water to survive. This is as true on the court as it is in life. However, we also need more than water to properly hydrate on the court. Electrolyte drinks have become a necessity recently, and rightfully so. They provide us with critical elements that we lose when we sweat. Simply drinking water will not hydrate you in the long run; you need something that replenishes your sweat lost. Drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, and pickle juice (that's right!) are good ways to prevent dehydration and cramps.
The general rule is to hydrate yourself every change over, or about every 10 minutes (depending on how long your games are). A big misconception of hydration is "If I'm not thirsty, I won't drink fluids". WRONG! Not only should you drink fluids well in advanced to being thirsty, but as a matter of fact, once you are thirsty, it is too late. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Once dehydration kicks in, you will have a huge decrease in performance. If the fluid you lose through sweat is not replenished quickly, you will become dehydrated and overheated. This could ultimately lead to heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and even a heat stroke. The bottom line is this: even if you think you're alright, drink plenty of fluids, for they are the only think standing between you and catastrophe.
Pre-match hydration is really important, too. If you properly hydrate yourself well before your match, then you give yourself a fighting chance against dehydration and cramping. Try drinking plenty of water before your match. Make sure to drink a glass of water before going to bed, because our bodies lose a lot of water during our sleeping cycle. When you wake up in the morning, follow the same routine and drink yet another glass of water, and this, too, will help hydrate you in the long run. A fun way to infuse your water is to put some fresh fruits in it. If you leave fresh cut fruits in your water overnight, they will mix with the water, and alas, you have flavored water! You can do this with any fruit you like, based on your liking, just make sure to leave the fruit in the water overnight, so the flavor and nutrients can be infused.
Now let's talk about post-match hydration. After you are victorious in your tennis match, the first thing you should do (after celebrating) is to hydrate. The goal of post-match hydration is really focused on replenishing the fluids lost during the match. Water is always a reliable source of hydration, but don't limit yourself. Try coconut water! This delightful alternative is really good for your body and it tastes great, too. Once you reach normal hydration levels and have replenished all the fluids you lost during your match, you'll feel a lot better physically and mentally.
Remember guys, hydration is everything. Whether it's pre-match, post-match, or during the changeovers, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! In a later blog, I will discuss the benefits of a proper tennis diet, so stay tuned!